It’s hard to believe that over a month has gone by since the death of Florenz Eisman, our beloved friend and colleague. As so often happens, during her final illness we did not have the chance to tell her–in detail in person–how much she meant to us. But Joan wanted Florenz to know just how important she had been to the founding and growth of CavanKerry Press and thus wrote this letter, which Hy Eisman then read to Florenz.
September 17, 2013
You’re with me always these past weeks–your laugh, your smarts, the sound of your voice, your red lipstick, the way turquoise and magenta are rendered that much brighter on your skin, your gigantic heart and deep penetrating soul–wondering how you are, wishing there was something I could do to let you know how much I love you. I need to let you know who you have been in my life. So I’m writing.
I’ve always admired and adored you. How long has it been? 15 years give or take from our first workshop—your writing so fine, so quirky, so smart—just like you.
When I started to think about the press back in 1999, miracle of miracles, you were available for work. I jumped at the chance to collaborate with you. And once the money came, we hit the ground running. We had to educate ourselves on the process of starting a press—neither of us had a clue. Remarkably, that didn’t bother us—we were on a mission and went about our work systematically, in tandem, until we learned and actually got good at it. Trusted partner throughout, you gave back to me in steady logical terms what I was struggling to figure out. Physically you’d always outdistanced me– oftimes you did intellectually as well. You had so much knowledge in so many fields and what you didn’t know, you researched. I remember being amazed at your savvy with the computer, grace with people, your awareness not only of books and the world, but what good writing was, and how quickly you “got” the kind of work I wanted to publish. Remarkably, our taste was virtually the same — I dearly remember you calling that Sunday afternoon spilling over with excitement about Caravaggio—we were both beside ourselves with excitement at publishing it and alas, so pained at discovering that another press had “won” it.
Remarkably, you kept the press running despite the fact that I was often in great pain in those early days and certainly when I went through my surgeries—and I knew you would. I never feared that you would not take complete and utter care of this new baby we had just given birth to. And yes, we were equal partners giving birth, nurturing and rearing a child. The press was our invention and still is and will always be. Without you beside me as my Managing Editor, I could never have accomplished so much with CKP. The miracle that is this press is as much yours as it is mine.
Perhaps the most stunning part of the gift of your partnership in parenting this fledgling, toddler, finally adolescent idea is that you never lost sight of my mission. It was uncanny how you focused on what I wanted—always and in all ways. Wherever the discussion went, you always brought it back to what I wanted, what I had dreamed. No one in my life has ever done that–removed themselves and their want completely from the equation and focused only on me and helping to give life to what had only existed in my head. When I was in a whirl of task, idea or emotion, your steady hand/head/heart always brought me back, focused me, outlined the direction we’d have to take to get what I saw in my mind translated into life.
Not having you with me/us these past two months has been heartbreaking. Though we all continue to work, the fun, spunk, and spirit of the work is gone. As Teresa asks, “What are we doing all this for? What’s the point without Florenz?” Yes, we will find our way back at some point but not to the family that we were –we’ll have to find a new one. And in time we’ll do that with you behind and among us–believing in us, keeping our imaginations actively creating, and doing the work that you prepared for us.
Meanwhile, perhaps I’ll take the liberty of writing again when the missing you becomes too large to be contained. I love love love you, dearest friend.